July 5th, 2022
If you have ever dreamt of a crumbing temple in a tropical jungle with trees growing amid the ruins, then you are probably visualising Ta Prohm.
“Ta Prohm (Khmer: ប្រាសាទតាព្រហ្ម, “Ancestor Brahma”) is the modern name of the temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia, built in the Bayon style largely in the late 12th and early 13th centuries and originally called Rajavihara (Khmer: រាជវិហារ, “royal monastery”). Located approximately one kilometre east of Angkor Thom and on the southern edge of the East Baray, it was founded by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm is in much the same condition in which it was found: the photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings have made it one of Angkor’s most popular temples with visitors.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ta_Prohm)
I found on YouTube a walk-through of Ta Prohm, minus the heat and humidity:
This is a drawing of Ta Prohm:
To give you a sense of scale, the horizontal boundary wall stretches for one kilometre (1,000 metres). This is a big temple. According to Wikipedia, the space inside the boundary wall to the right originally was a large town – all gone now, it’s dense forest. There’s much more in the Wikipedia article.
Ta Prohm also featured in the film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
I was dropped off by my driver and his ‘remorque-moto’ on the west side of the temple. Here’s a photo of the west gate:
I went through the gate and followed the path:
On the way I passed a group of men missing hands or legs (perhaps from the Cambodian Civil War or its after-effects?) playing presumably Khmer music, with a large donation sign. A passing acquaintance told me they didn’t receive any money from their injuries.
I came to the western edge of the central temple structures:
Below is a closeup of the temple’s rear entrance, complete with supporting structures:
Walking around the central structures was like a film come to life. The enormous ruins, the rubble half-cleared, the stones bleached, made a deep impression on me.
There were colossal trees sitting on the bare rock.
“On every side, in fantastic over-scale, the trunks of the silk-cotton trees soar skywards under a shadowy green canopy, their long spreading skirts trailing the ground and their endless roots coiling more like reptiles than plants.” (Maurice Glaize, quoted in http://www.publicartinchicago.com/2018-vacation-cambodia-siem-reap-ta-prohm-unesco-world-heritage-site/#:~:text=%E2%80%9COn%20every%20side%2C%20in%20fantastic,more%20like%20reptiles%20than%20plants.%E2%80%9D)
I took a photo below of a ruined doorway famous for being on the cover of Lonely Planet Cambodia.
As I walked back to the ‘remorque-moto’ my clothing was drenched, as though I’d come out of a shower. It was only about half-past nine, but the temperature was over 30 degrees, and the humidity oppressive.
The next day, I set out for Angkor Wat, the climax of my trip – but when I arrived, I discovered I had forgotten my smartphone, and hence camera. However, you don’t need a camera – Angkor Wat has been photographed and videoed many, many times. Here’s a YouTube clip:
Wikipedia has an entry for Angkor Wat.
I remember a long walk just to get to the central temple. I was dropped off at the western gate as before, but Angkor Wat is reversed, having the major entrance to the west (archeologists have many theories about this). I walked through the tourist entrance, across the moat on a pontoon bridge (the stone bridge having been closed for maintenance), climbed the small temple, and walked to the central temple. It was a long way and I was tired before I reached it.
When reaching the central temple the overall impression was size. This is a huge temple, in a way that the videos just can’t catch. The sides of the temple were steep, although it was a one-story temple. The final access-way to the base of the five towers was so steep that I declined.
I saw, high up in an interior wall hidden from the sun, the deep red colour of what I presume is the authentic colour scheme. Nearby there were plaster flowers painted in original hues. I thought it looked like Wat Arun or Wat Pho in Bangkok. Imagine that all over the massive temple!